pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

when did Moppie became Biya?

Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us,
as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings,
spouses, friends–and hardly ever our own grown children.

Ruth Goode


(the Mayor clownig around / Julie Cook / 2019)

The best-laid plans, right?

Somewhere between having kids and by the time those kids become “grown”…
the notion of having grandchildren, and becoming a grandparent, trickles
ever so sweetly into one’s thoughts.

And maybe even more so if you yourself had had a special relationship with your own grandparents.

Of course, you most certainly need to have some time in between your children leaving the nest
and their actually growing into their own before you can even allow yourself to
entertain the thought of more wee ones in your life!
But the older you get, the more those types of thoughts invade both your mind and heart.

And so all this grandparent talk came racing to the forefront of my thinking recently,
in a rather poignant way, when I was talking with a new acquaintance.
This new friend reminded me of what it means to want to be a grandparent.

This friend was recounting the day doctors had told her she had stage 4 breast cancer,
kidney cancer as well as liver cancer….giving her only 2 weeks to live.

The short-long of this story, of which was about 6 years ago or so,
and as we now see has had a truly a miraculous ending…is not what one might imagine.

When told you only have two weeks to live…I’m not certain what your first thoughts
are suppose to be.

Do you panic?
Do you get mad?
Are you resigned?
Or, in the case of my friend, do you think of what might have been?

When my own mother was told such at the age of 53, her first response was that she
really had wanted to play tennis again.
But that was pretty much my mom…

So what this new friend of mine had told me, that which was her initial thought after hearing such news,
was actually quite telling.

This was at a time in her life when her sons were still relatively young and just entering college.
The thought of them marrying and having their own children was a very distant fantasy.
Yet my friend revealed that when the doctors told her she had but weeks to live,
her first and only thought was…
“and to think, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a grandmother…”

And so yes, there is indeed something truly magical about being a grandparent.

I was fortunate in that I knew both of my grandmothers and one grandfather,
a man who I lost way too soon…when I was but only 7.

To this day, I cherish the memories I forged with each of them…
as they left important imprints on my very being.
They helped to mould me into who I am today.
But perhaps no more so than that of my grandfather as he continues to loom large and lovingly
in the memories of
the 7-year-old little girl who remains in my psyche.

And so one thing we know about grandparents is that grandparents have grandparent names.

My grandparents were known as Mimi, Nany, and Pop.

My dad was later ‘Pops’ to our son as was his brother, my uncle, to his own grandkids.

So when the time came in our own lives, when my husband and myself were to become grandparents,
the formation of names became a hot topic.

Our son wanted us to have more traditional names—names he was familiar with—those of
“grandmother and papa” since “pops” was a bit too sacred for him.

I, on the other hand, wanted to be more unique…
Names with character and staying power.
So I thought “Moppie and Poppie” sounded really cute.

Not too dorky or silly but really grandparent-like.

Our son hated both names but I stuck with my choice…
Despite the little fact that my husband constantly kept falling back on what he had heard his
own father called forever… “papa”

Still, I was determined.
I was going to be Moppie by gosh.

That was until the day I was actually called ‘Biya’ and my husband was called ‘Da’ by the one person
who the names were to be the most pertinent.

BIYA????
What the heck??
I get ‘Da’ as that is connected to what the Mayor calls her dad, DaDa—so it makes sense the older of the
dadas would be Da.
But Biya???

How and where she came up with Biya is beyond my soul.

When they call us on the phone and when she hears my voice—
it is immediately a constant shouting of BIYA, BIYA, BIYA…

My grandmother, Nany, got her name because her young nephew, my dad’s cousin, couldn’t say
‘Aunt Annie’—-so a butchered form came out as ‘nany’—and so Nany stuck.
And thus for about 70 years of her 86 year long life, she was Nany and Nany only to all of
us who knew and loved her.

But that still didn’t answer my wonderment as to how Moppie became Biya…

So when in doubt I did what we all do…I googled.

The word Biya is actually a real word.
Who knew??

It is Arabic in origin.
And it is a current word in both Pakistan and India…Sanskrit actually…
a word that means ‘goodness’, ‘courageous’ or more importantly, ‘gift to God’…

So in her 18-month-old infinite wisdom, The Mayor has deemed that I shall be of goodness and
a gift to God…

I’ll take that name in a heartbeat and I pray that I will be able to live up to this
most precious gift she’s given me.
Because she and her brother, the New Sheriff, are the best gifts my life could have ever received.


(The Maror showing a little love to her Sheriff)


(the Sheriff enjoying his first beach trip)


(the Mayor sporting shades for a day out at the beach)

if you don’t like it…

Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(a mud dusty turtle/ Julie Cook / 2019)

In the news recently, I’ve read where our President has responded to the
Speaker of House’s fab four darling freshmen members…

It seems that they have been not shy about spouting their disdain for the handling
of the illegal immigration issue, the border crisis, the impending ICE raids,
and even a disdain for the office of Homeland Security…

Their disdain is coming via twitter.

In a counter tweet, the President responded with something along the lines of
“if you don’t like it, go back from where you came form”
Of which for a couple of them means they’d just be going back here to the US,
but not so for a couple of the others as he later added
“if you don’t like it, you can just leave”

Now, first of all, let me clarify— I hate all things twitter.

I liken it to a grown-up version of name-calling as well as good old fashioned
‘he said, she said’ sort of childish nonsense.

So no, I don’t like Twitter.

Maybe if we really try to figure it out, maybe it’s because everyone wants to have
some sort of public platform in order to express their ill content while hoping that
those out there reading will join on whatever the current bandwagon may be.

A cheap, easy and often anonymous sort of platform.

It seems to embolden people who have a more or less private avenue in which
to babble outward…
They are emboldened as they can readily spout off something via
the twitter waves while others rally to their words.

But I digress…it’s lunacy run amuck but there I go again digressing.

I will, however, be the first to say that yes, we, as in this country of ours,
have quite a mess on our hands.

My friend Kathy over on a Time to Share (atimetoshare.wordpress.com) actually wrote about this
issue yesterday, our mess that is, in a post entitled Illegal, what don’t we understand?

Here’s the link
ILLEGAL – WHAT DON’T WE UNDERSTAND?

And I agree with her.

I commented as much while she, in turn, responded that she was having some pushback
from the millennial crowd… of which I am not surprised.

Of course, the whole illegal notion and humanitarian crisis issue runs contrary to what
many of the democratic hopeful presidential candidates would want anyone to
truly understand because it helps their numbers to simply say “crisis, what crisis?!”

When you have hundreds of thousands of folks pushing their way into a sovereign
Nation by climbing fences, swimming across rivers, digging tunnels,
hiring “coyotes” to sneak them in, hiding in the backs of big rig trucks,
hidden in the trunks of cars, etc…
with the keyword here being “sneaking’, then someone in all of this has to know
that this is not the “legal” way in or the legal way
to go about seeking citizenship.

But according to many liberal democrats…” legal citizenship” is an oxymoron.

Sneaking is ok in the minds of most of the progressive left.
Yet a synonym for sneaking is shady.
And who doesn’t understand that sneaking and shady are not words for being exactly
on the up and up?

Oh but there I go digressing.

In order to house the hundreds of those attempting to cross the border
on a daily basis, we have had to put up detention centers.

Some of the Fab 4 reps are complaining about the detention centers and have reported
that detainees are being treated like animals and are told to drink toilet water—
of which others who have actually volunteered to help at the centers
vehemently deny.
And so perhaps AOC and Omar are not speaking the truth but are rather promoting their
typical heightened sense of the melodramatic because melodramatic garners
likes and followers.

We certainly have been hearing a lot of complaining, haven’t we?
Fussing and cussing as to how bad America has become.
And the complaining spill over on to any supporter of the President
as they are equated to that of a deplorable, an ignorant dimwit, or simply
a redneck.
On and on goes the gripes…and for the lack of a better word, bitching.

I once worked for a principal who was former military.
I liked him and he was a good man to work for but there was one thing about him…
he couldn’t stand to have teachers, students or parents come to him fussing,
cussing or complaining about this or that.

He would quickly stop said complainer in mid complaint and ask rather what
was their solution.

And the solution, mind you, had better be well thought out, affordable and feasible.

So don’t simply grouse about something but rather find a viable solution to
counter your complaint.

And so here is the thing…we have record numbers of people literally
knocking down the fences to get into our country.
Pushing, shoving, running, jumping, sneaking and being all shady in their pursuit
of what this country has to offer.

While our headlines are rife with the images of people who have tragically
died doing so.
They have put not only themselves at risk, but they have readily put their children
at risk as well.

Is the potential death of a child equal to the risk of illegally invading
another country?

Many a progressive liberal would argue that yes, yes it is…
but I would be hard-pressed to see them do the same with their own lives
and their own children.

Knowing that the risk to life is very high.
And that bad things most likely will happen..
is it worth putting a young child through such?
Is their life that expendable?

Firstly there has to be some level of responsibility on the parts of these parents.

And so the Fab 4 reps and their followers are clamoring to just drop all walls,
the fences, any and all checkpoints and roll out the red carpet while saying
‘just come running on in…’

So where do the hundreds of thousands go?
Who feeds them?
Who houses them?
Who clothes them?
Who employes them?
Who educates them?
Who tends to their medical needs?

All of that costs money.
A level of money that this country does not have to give.

And that’s the thing…how do we pay for all the hundreds of thousands who come?

We currently have a homeless epidemic in this country…
Look at Portland, Seattle, Chicago, LA….any large city across this nation has
a vast number of homeless.
Many who suffer from mental illness or drug addiction.

Yet we can’t seem to figure out how to help our own so how are we expected
to welcome the throngs of individuals who are wanting to cross the borders–?

And so we have a group of naive, melodramatic, representatives who
are being very verbal about their disdain for our Nation, our
government, our leadership.

Are they offering any viable solutions or are they simply rabble rousing the masses
with inflammatory words such as impeach, occupyer,
Russian accomplice, racist, Nazi,hater

If there are no viable solutions to be offered, perhaps leaving the place
they seem to enjoy running in the ground might be the best choice
for all concerned…

At least their departure would open up a few more spots to those sneaking in…

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged;
behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

James 5:9

the Sheriff has arrived for duty

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
― George Washington


(the Sheriff dressed for his arrival at home…finally)

It’s been a whirlwind of time and activity…
trying and hard as well as grateful and good.

It’s like I told Tricia the other day…when our family’s newest addition ended up in the
neonatal unit shortly after his birth, it was as if the world simply stopped and stood still.
Nothing outside that hospital mattered…

no politics
no societal or cultural idiocy
no countries
no governments
no Democrats
no Republicans
no tit for tat…

Absolutely nothing mattered but that our little guy would rally.

In hindsight, we learned that one of his lungs had collapsed and he “strangled” on amniotic fluid—
of which was suddenly realized when the “crisis” occurred while he was being kept in the nursey
following his birth.
Hence the surge of staff presence and the rapid removal to the neonatal care unit.

Add to that a few other issues that would delay circumcision for at least 6 months.

When my son and daughter-n-law returned home without a baby…
the very baby they had raced to deliver Sunday night, it was a sad arrival back home
and it was hard.

I had just returned home from having spent 4 days with them—we thought we still
has about 3 days when at midnight I got the call…
“Mother, I need ya’ll to come back, NOW!”

But how many couples experience such…?
How many parents continue to leave for the hospital only to come back home without the baby
they had left to go deliver?

It quickly put a spin of reality on birth…
something that we in the “civilized world” now take for granted.

We treat delivering a baby much as we do a trip to the dentist— a simple in and out.

100 years ago…folks knew not to take such for granted…

Perhaps it is our technological advances that have left us jaded and smug while feeling
almost infallible and indefensible to those worst-case scenarios…
situations that a century ago our grand and great grandparents knew better than to assume
that all would be well.

I learned as an educator to expect the worst, but rejoice when the success comes…

Maybe that’s why I consider myself more or less a pragmatist…
despite the fact that I claim and often cling to the positive…
I know, however, that life can change on a dime.

We were fortunate.

His initial tests came back negative and he got to come home to us late Thursday afternoon.

He weighed nearly a pound less than and was shorter in length than that of his sister,
The Mayor, when she was born nearly 15 months ago.

He lost weight in the hospital…backtracking from his birth weight.
But is slowly making a come back to the weight he arrived with.

Lanky and spindly vs a sister who was more round and full.

And speaking of the Mayor…she was a bit apprehensive on the day of her brother’s birth.

And note that face on The Mayor when she clamored up to sit by Mopie (aka “Biya”) when holding
the new Sherrif…

The Sheriff now wears a tiny monitor on his foot which measures his heart rate and oxygen levels…
And thankfully so far so good.

He’s just so tiny and seemingly frail…but I suspect that having to live under the tutelage
of his new boss, the Mayor, will require a ramp up in fortitude…
something I suspect our little Sheriff will certainly rise to occasion for…

I have no doubt…

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:
Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

indoctrination, starting young…beware!

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking
educated people seriously.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the Pteranodon family from PBS Dinosaur Train)

I was the only one left behind that Christmas Eve day…
that being myself and The Mayor of course.

One of our numbers was still at work, one had to run to the bakery and the other to
run errands…
I learned a long time ago, you never ask too many questions on Christmas Eve.

As my daughter-n-law was dashing out the door, she volunteered to turn on the television
so I could be somewhat entertained… that is if caring for the Mayor is not entertaining,
let alone consuming, enough!

I normally don’t watch TV during the day…albeit with the exception being during
the Bowl season…
yet sadly there were no bowls to the season currently bowling due to the
Christmas observation….so I was more or less nonplused regarding a
TV on or off.

Plus The Mayor is not really one to “watch” much television herself, of which I pray
will be a habit which will carry on throughout her life…
However…I must confess that my dad was a TV junkie and, in turn, aided in turning
his number one partner in crime, aka my son and The Mayor’s dad, into a bit of a
TV aficionado.

So as everyone went their merry way this merry day, The Mayor and I found before us
what appeared to be a cute little cartoonesque show airing on PBS.

Television options for children, airing throughout the day, leans toward either a Disney
channel or a Nickelodeon channel…
and I must confess, my days of watching Disney and or Nickelodeon
went the way of the growing up of our son.

And for the record, I tend to like PBS—that would be if we could scratch out their money
raising marathons, of which I totally understand when it comes to maintaining a relatively
commercial free world, however, it usually cuts into my enjoying Andrea Bocelli
in mid tenor beauty.

So we settled ourselves into watching Dinosaur Train.

A mini parental seal of approval promo introduced the show informing viewers that this
particular couple’s son actually learned his ABCs by watching Dinosaur Train.

Hummmmm…

The show’s intro begins with a catchy little tune as the shot zooms in on a nest of 4 eggs…
three eggs suddenly hatch into what I thought were pterodactyls but I was mistaken,
they were pteranodons…so much for my dinosaur knowledge!

The 4th egg hatched into what looked like a little orange T-rex while
Mother Pterandon sang that despite this orange oddball mixed in with her obviously
biological winged group, they were all about being an inclusive family embracing
differences because different species don’t matter in a family because their
family is all about inclusiveness… (eyes now rolling)

Hummmmmmm I mused as I sensed a nod to culturalism…

I was simply waiting for the ABC lesson.

Since it was Christmas Eve, I wondered if there’d be some sort of Christmas theme.
We had just caught the tail end of a cartoon cat singing about Hanukkah, so surely
dinosaurs could be singing about Christmas.

However, there were no ABCs nor anything about Christmas.

As cute as the show was, complete with a real human paleontologist, popping in with
some neat little fun facts about dinosaurs, I quickly learned that Dinosaur Train
was a victim of…or maybe that should be more like an accomplice to,
our modern culture’s obsession with all things anti-Christian
with a heavy pro-progressive left leanings to quasi inclusiveness while turning
out all remnants of Christianity…
SIGH.

The theme of the day for the dinosaurs was celebrating not Christmas nor Hanukkah but rather
the Winter Solstice…
REALLY?

Here it was Christmas Eve for crying out loud and this was a children’s show…
and yet the programming gods in their infinite wisdom found the need to celebrate
all things, Pagan.

Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years.
This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun.
In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.
Today, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as “Christmas.”
Yet a look into its origins of Christmas reveals its Pagan roots.
Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun”
in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations.
Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday
of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized.
January 6, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi,
was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice.

Circle Sanctuary

Gotta love the Pagans who continue with their not so veiled attempt at connecting the
dots between early Christianity to that of the day’s pagan heritage…
It seems they think once a pagan, always a pagan…God forbid there could
be any true conversion to the belief in the Grace of Salvation.

And the best person we should look to who actually did a phenomenal job of incorporating
the current day’s beliefs while teaching the new Christian faith to the local
pagan population would be St Patrick…

In a previous post that I wrote regarding dear St Patrick, I noted that
Patrick spent 40 years of his life wandering the mystical Pretanic Island,
preaching and teaching to the Druids and the Celts.

The Celts were actually a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings,
Danes, Druids, Picts, and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion
(northern Great Britain). And as an island people, these superstitious tribes
were deeply connected, attuned to, as well as dependent upon the land.

Ireland was a rich and fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of
the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream.
Patrick knew that the best way to get the attention of the Celts was to utilize
those things that were common and entrenched in everyday life.
A prolific example being the humble clover.
The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of
the Holy Trinity.

To this day the shamrock is synonymous with Ireland’s Christian spirituality and heritage

In another post, we learned a bit more of Patrick’s teaching…

It is said that the pagan Celts considered the sun to be an integral part of their worship.
Circles have been found etched and carved on many excavated Celtic ruins.
I think it’s rather easy to understand the importance behind worshiping the sun for the Celts—
if you’ve ever spent much time in Ireland, you know how wet and grey it can be.
There are parts of Ireland which receive up to 225 days of wet rainy weather each year,
in turn, making any and all sunny days a rare and treasured commodity.

Patrick had to be innovative if he wanted to get the Celt’s attention and gain their trust
as the ultimate goal was total conversion and allegiance to the one true God.
So Patrick set about with a brilliant plan combining both a component most important
to the Celtic nation, that being the sun–a revered circle,
bridging the abyss to the most important image to Christians,
the Latin cross, with the addition of a circle ringing around the cross–a
combination representing both sun and Son as the circle is also a Christian
symbol representing God’s endlessness.

As a teacher, I can honestly say that there is no better way of teaching something new than
making connections with what one already knows and understands.

(both full posts found here:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/la-fheile-padraig-sona-dhuit/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/good-for-the-goose/)

So yes, there was a great deal of overlapping with what had long been entrenched
with the superstitious and very keen people who were linked to all things seasonal
while introducing the new religion of Christianity. The overlapping has melded into
the Christian faith we recognize today.

But the premise, for these past 2000 give or take years, remains consistently the same.
Jesus Christ is the resurrected son of God….as is stated in the Nicene Creed.

WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

Yet most theologians and Christian scholars agree on one thing…
that December 25th was most likely not the exact date of the birth of Jesus.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare:
There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers
such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225).
Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of
birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’
birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.
As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

biblicalarcheology.com

I say all of this as I actually recalled a few past posts written by two more learned
individuals than myself…more learned in regards to the theology and history of our faith.
It’s those two favorite across the Pond clerics…Pastor David Robertson, aka the Wee Flea
and that rouge Anglican Bishop, Gavin Ashenden.

They have both noted, with great alarm, the insidious indoctrination of our children
that seems to be creeping in earlier and earlier.

https://theweeflea.com/2018/12/13/now-theyre-coming-for-the-nurseries/

https://ashenden.org/2018/02/28/christianity-the-antidote-to-cultural-brainwashing/

Thus the one important lesson that I learned on this Christmas Eve as the Mayor and
I thought we were settling in to watch some cute little flying dinosaurs,
be they pterodactyls or pteranodons, teaching us our ABCs…
I learned that culturalism and anti Christian rhetoric is alive and well
in children’s programming…and it seems that a heavy dose of indoctrination
is coming faster and earlier than we may have ever imagined.

Thus as Believers it would behoove us all to be ever vigilant with our children…
no matter how young they are…remember… imprinting begins very early.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today.
Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away,
when you lie down or get up. Write them down, and tie them around your wrist,
and wear them as headbands as a reminder.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen.
Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live!
And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.
Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai,
where he told me, Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them.
Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live,
and they will teach their children to fear me also.”

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

she had nothing to give…yet she gave the very best

“May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(image courtesy Rachel Uretsky-Pratt, an elementary teacher in Washington State)

I have a small confession…
When it comes to cereal, of which I rarely eat, I love Lucky Charms.

I’ve loved it ever since I was little…
or rather ever since the cereal’s inception in 1964.

And if the truth be told, I’ve been known to secretly buy a box every now and then,
when I should have been buying something like Multigrain Cheerios or some other healthy
cardboard nuggets.

It’s okay, let’s all admit it…who doesn’t love those colorful little
crunchy marshmallows?

And another confession…

Have you ever eaten a bowl of Lucky charms, as the milk
turns an odd swirling muddied color from all those magically melting delicious marshmallows…
in turn, turning up the bowl while finishing off that last bit of sweetened milk?
Mmmmmmmmmm

My mother, for reasons beyond my soul, would never buy the cereal I wanted, that being
Lucky Charms or Raisin Bran.
She claimed the Raisin Bran upset our stomachs…something about too much bran
but back then the thought of fiber was not a thing and as far as the Lucky Charms
was concerned, to this day, I don’t know…
she just always tried appeasing my brother with that awful Captain Crunch.

So when I saw the following image of a tiny bag of Lucky Charms marshmallows being
offered as a humble Christmas gift, my attention was piqued.

And by the time I finished reading the story, my eyes were so full of tears that I could
barely see from crying almost uncontrollably.

The newsfeed popped up after a young elementary teacher’s FaceBook post went viral.

It seems that Rachel Uretsky-Pratt, who is an elementary teacher in Washington state,
received a rather unusual gift from one of her students.
But rather than just being an unusual gift, the small present was about the most genuine,
selfless and sincere form of giving that I’ve seen in a very long time, if ever.

Uretsky-Pratt posted on her FaceBook:

“You see, 100% of my school is on free/reduced lunch.
They also get free breakfast at school every day of the school week.
This kiddo wanted to get my something so badly, but had nothing to give,” she continued.
“So rather than give me nothing, this student opened up her free breakfast cereal this morning,
took the packaging of her spork, straw, and napkin, and finally took the time to take
every marshmallow out of her cereal to put in a bag – for me.”

Here is the full FaceBook post followed by the link to the news story:

To help put your life into perspective:
Today was the last day before our winter break.
We will have two weeks off to rest with our families and loved ones over the holidays
then head back to school in 2019.

With it being the day before break and Christmas right around the corner,
most teachers bring their kiddos something such as books or little treats and occasionally
in return receive something from their students.
Today I received some chocolates, sweet handmade notes, some jewelry,
but these Lucky Charm marshmallows stood out to me the most.

You see, 100% of my school is on free/reduced lunch.
They also get free breakfast at school every day of the school week.
This kiddo wanted to get my something so badly, but had nothing to give.
So rather than give me nothing,
this student opened up her free breakfast cereal this morning,
took the packaging of her spork, straw,
and napkin, and finally took the time to take every marshmallow out of her cereal
to put in a bag—for me.
Be grateful for what you have, and what others give you.
It all truly comes from the deepest parts of their hearts.
Happy Holidays.
💕

https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/washington-student-teacher-marshmallows-christmas-gift

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting
money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.
And he called his disciples to him and said to them,
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are
contributing to the offering box.
For they all contributed out of their abundance,
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

the secular stealing the Sacred

As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my
beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a
secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and
promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and
increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation.
Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called
“liberal” and “progressive” elites, God has been progressively erased from
our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of
delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn


(vintage Christmas Card)

About a week back or so, I wrote a post about the fact that we actually have two
Christmases…with the truth being that we do…we do have two.

And in turn, we have what seems to be a melding.

One is the secular Christmas of Santa, presents, stockings, commercialism and merchandising.

The other, of which is the original of the two, is the Christmas of a birth.

A birth that isn’t just any kind of birth…but rather it’s the birth of
a Savior…the birth of the Sacred.

So now that we have all of that clear—I should let you know that I have always tried hard
to keep the two separated yet at the same time, trying to keep them as one.

I think that chore is more of a burden that is not merely my burden alone…
but rather a burden that most Christians have struggled with…that being
the balance of the Sacred and secular.

And it seems as if, every year about this time, I jump on a tiny soapbox pontificating this
same ol conundrum…
And every year I tell myself, enough is enough.
I won’t get sucked in…not again.

There’s a lot of work to do for our secular side.
And it’s really a great deal of busy, and even expensive, sort of work.
And oh how we stress over it all.

We fret over the tiniest of details.
We strive for perfection while always falling short as we are then made to feel as if
we did not live up to the expectation our culture has put upon us.

But let’s be honest, we really put it on ourselves do we not?
If put another way, we actually “allow” it to make us feel as if we have not lived
up to the perfection….
However, me thinks there is something more going on here, more than meets the eye…

It’s actually something which many would consider near criminal…
A crime that is actually taking place in plain sight—
yet none of us appears to be any the wiser.

It is the stealing of the Sacred by the secular.

Yep, you read correctly.

The secular is, or certainly is trying, to steal the Sacred.

Yet here’s the thing…we are allowing it to happen.
We are complicit.
We are falling hook, line, and sinker— while all throughout this theft, we’re being dupped.

It is in our defense, that I state for the record, that we are being hoodwinked.
We are being lulled into this crime of complicity by the shiny lights and sounds
of the slick merchandising of the season that now ramps up sometime after July 4th.

So this year, my one small “rebellion” against complicity…

I opted not to send out Christmas cards.

At first, it was going to be the lights.
Then it was the tree, the gifts, the cooking, the decorating….see what I’m saying??
we’re living on an out of control fast rolling snowball turned avalanche.

Every year, early in the Fall, I’d seek out my Christmas Cards.
I did not take the task lightly.

When our son was little, ours was the basic card of a small family wishing
A Merry Christmas to all.
It was always a photo type card of our little boy with a Christmas Greeting from
all three of us.

Yet as time passed and he grew to be a young man versus that of a little boy, I shifted our
card focus from the greeting of a family through the image of their child to now
a card of only the Sacred.

A religious card that proclaimed the birth of a Savior.

It was not to be one of those types of cards with pictures of the whole family at the beach,
or on some exotic trip or some sort of montage of family feats and accomplishments…
nor was it to be one of those letter types of card that is a laundry a list of who, what
and where of the great and grand.

I understand that the simple sacrificial Christmas card morphed into becoming a surrogate
form of communication…
It became the equivalent of filling in the gaps of a year without having touched base
with the list of names on a list.

The Christmas card turned into the catch-up of life, liberally spiked with a heavy dose
of grandstanding.

It became the litany of a brag sheet of trips, events, accomplishments, and milestones…
Nothing about Christmas…that being Christ’s mass.

Nothing about Christ even being hidden in the details of that spectacular vacation to Machu Pichu
or your eldest now graduating top of her class.

Where is Jesus in the tales of where you went, who you saw, or what you accomplished?
Are there any thoughts or reflections regarding your service to Him or his sheep?

I don’t mind the images of the little children or even those of grandchildren as children
seem to be the connecting glue between the Sacred and the secular…
it is the children…or so that is what it should be.
The Sacred is that of a child and the secular is that of collective children.
Or so it was to be…
Innocence and the mystical mixed with the gift of Sacred birth.

So I figured…I’d send out my card here instead.
Just one big card for friends, family, and even strangers…

And since I would have sent them out by now, I figured I should do so here today.

So I offer you this lovely Italian baroque time period painting of the Nativity–also known
as the Adoration with Saints Francis and Lawrence…
a beautiful image for reflection and proclamation.

Yet it is a painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio—commissioned in 1609 as an altarpiece
for an oratory in Palermo, Sicily, the Oratorio di San Lorenzo…
A painting with a mysterious past, painted by a rogue of a painter…

It would be centuries following its completion that the painting would be
quietly taken by two men working for the Mafia and in turn
it would be “lost” for nearly 40 years.

A painting of the Sacred, painted by one who was anything but…
A painting that was stolen by those who were perhaps even worse than the artist…

Thus we have an example of the secular literally stealing an image of the Sacred….hummmm

(here’s a little link to the backstory behind the painting and artitst…I’ve written
about Caravaggio before…a very secular rogue of an artist who could paint oh so powerfully
the of the Sacred in a way unmatched by many other artists…one of my favs…
http://art-crime.blogspot.com/2009/12/breaking-news-on-stolen-caravaggio.html )

May we all be blessed as we recall the Sacred birth of Salvation…


The Adoration / Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence / Caravaggio 1609)